Martha Bishop, executive director of Life After Meth and the pastor at Owensville United Methodist Church, stood with the sun warming her shoulders, watching as the crowd around the Old Cathedral on Good Friday began to swell.
“This feels amazing, to come home again,” she said, her eyes revealing a wide smile even behind a mask. “It feels good to start new, to re-establish some traditions and be outside with all of these people.”
After canceling the annual Way of the Cross Walk last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Vincennes Area Ministerial Association recently announced that it would return this year.
The Way of the Cross Walk, a modern take on the Catholic tradition of the Stations of the Cross, is in its 12th year. It can draw as many as 300 people — but that poses a problem during a pandemic, so they looked to some creative solutions.
People from all walks of faith gather on the steps of the Old Cathedral promptly at noon on Good Friday and step off together on a mile-long trek through historic downtown, stopping 14 times along the way as local ministers read passages from the Easter story.
This year, however, coordinators sent smaller groups off in multiple waves. Each group then paused at the 14 stops where a minister was waiting to read a passage and corresponding Scripture before sending them on their way. But perhaps the most impactful part of the Way of the Cross Walk is the cross itself. Worshippers traditionally take turns carrying a large wooden cross at the front of the crowd.
This year, coordinator Trevor Murry, the chaplain at Good Samaritan, had a special cross made, one that broke into multiple parts.
Each group then carried a section along their trek, and the cross was reassembled in celebratory fashion at the end. Darren Williams moved to Vincennes last summer, taking the job of head pastor at Community United Methodist Church. It was his first time participating in the Way of the Cross Walk, and after a long and isolating year, he, too, was thrilled to see the assembly.
“I love this idea,” he said. “And anytime we can come together with other pastors and strengthen people’s faith, I always want to do that.
“It’s vital,” he said. “Too many people have been isolated for too long. It’s hard on your heart, on your mind, on your spirit. So being able to get back out there and connect with people, especially on Easter, in a more typical fashion helps with our overall health, I think.
“This is revitalizing.”
Ann Matthews stood with a group of friends as they waited to take off in the first group. She has been a loyal participant in the Way of the Cross Walk — making it part of her Easter tradition — so she missed it greatly last year.
“I’m excited to be here,” she said. “I enjoy it so much every year, and it’s a wonderful experience to have on Good Friday, to think about our Lord suffering and all he did for us. This (event) makes it so special, and even more so because it’s an entire community of people, from many churches. Yet we’re all Christians here.”
Sharon Edmonson stood off to the side, hanging back until the last group departed. Living in the country, she’s been content to stay at home through much of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s been thoughtful and careful, for her own health and that of others, she said.
But armed now with the COVID-19 vaccine and a mask, she felt safe to venture out and partake again in one of her long-time Easter traditions.
“It’s so emotional, so very moving,” she said. “It draws you closer to the Lord and to the meaning of Easter.”